BEIJING (Agency): The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC), today joined global innovators, development banks, private-sector players, and governments at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. Together, they committed to accelerate the commercialization and adoption of disruptive sanitation technologies world-wide over the next decade. Rapid expansion of new, off-grid sanitation products and systems could dramatically reduce the global human and economic toll of unsafe sanitation, including the deaths of half a million children under the age of 5 each year and the more than $200 billion that is lost due to health care costs and decreased income and productivity.
A range of companies from around the world came together at the Expo to display a new class of sanitation solutions that eliminate harmful pathogens and convert waste into by-products like clean water and fertilizer—all without connections to sewers or water lines. Companies from China (Clear, CRRC, EcoSan), the United States (Sedron Technologies), India(Eram Scientific, Ankur Scientific, Tide Technocrats), and Thailand (SCG Chemicals) announced the availability of the world’s first pathogen-killing reinvented toilets and small-scale waste treatment plants (called omni-processors), which are now ready for sale to municipal and private entities. LIXIL, headquartered in Japan, announced plans to bring to pilot a household-level reinvented toilet based on a leading prototype.
“This Expo showcases, for the first time, radically new, decentralized sanitation technologies and products that are business-ready,” said Bill Gates during the opening plenary of the Reinvented Toilet Expo. “It’s no longer a question of if we can reinvent the toilet and other sanitation systems. It’s a question of how quickly this new category of off-grid solutions will scale.”
Development finance institutions at the Expo—including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank—announced commitments with the potential to unlock $2.5 billion in financing for City-Wide Inclusive Sanitation projects that provide people in all parts of a city—including the poorest neighborhoods—with safely managed sanitation services. The banks’ pledges represent the biggest-ever coordinated set of commitments exclusively for urban sanitation. Significantly, these efforts will accelerate the adoption of novel non-sewered sanitation solutions in low- and middle-income countries. UNICEF announced an ambitious, new sanitation market-shaping strategy to help scale and deploy product and service innovations and increase private-sector engagement. The French Development Agency committed to double its funding for sanitation work globally by 2022, up to 600 million euros (US $683 million) per year.
LIXIL’s announcement of its entry into the reinvented toilet market at the Expo signalled an important milestone for sanitation industry leaders. “Now is the time,” said Kinya Seto, president of LIXIL. “Innovative companies have a golden opportunity to do well by doing good. We can help jumpstart a new era of safe sanitation for the 21st century by developing solutions that can leapfrog today’s existing infrastructure, functioning anywhere and everywhere.”
More than half of the world’s population, 4.5 billion people, continue to live without access to safely managed sanitation. In many cities in the global south, more than 50 percent of human waste escapes into the environment untreated.
Emerging trends, from climate change to demographic shifts, signal an intensification of the sanitation crisis and a need for faster progress. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, close to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in dense urban areas, putting a strain on already-inadequate city-level sanitation systems and infrastructure. Much of the growth will occur in low-income countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where water scarcity is likely to hit hardest.
The Gates Foundation has invested more than $200 million since 2011 in early-stage reinvented toilet and omni-processor R&D aimed at lowering barriers and risk for the private sector and governments to adopt new sanitation solutions. At the Expo, the foundation shared its plans to invest an additional $200 million to support continued R&D that can help bring down the costs of new sanitation products for the poor and bolster market development in regions where new, non-sewered sanitation products can have the greatest impact.